The publishers of Detroit's Metro Times revealed today they are purchasing The Detroit News for an undisclosed sum, allowing Metro Times to take over, rename and reinvigorate the daily newspaper as The Detroit Daily.
Pending approval by the U.S. Department of Justice, the alternative newsweekly Metro Times, which turns 30 this year, will take over daily operations of the financially troubled daily paper, which Time magazine listed among "The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America" last year.
The deal set off immediate reaction from media observers and gadflies who've been monitoring the daily closely. Like the larger Gannett-owned Detroit Free Press, the News had cut back the number of days the paper was delivered last year, prompting worries the paper was struggling to save enough money to keep publishing. For many Detroit News employees, the purchase is good news, as it promises to save many jobs its owner, MediaNews Group, simply couldn't afford to pay for much longer.
Noted media critic Charles Foster Kane of Citizens United for Better Media said this kind of a creative deal shows there are still plenty of surprises in the troubled newspaper industry. Nationally, said Kane, rumors continue that Google may buy the entire industry with co-founder Sergey Brin's pocket change.
Closer to home, Kane added, "There'd been widespread speculation that the MT would shift to an all-advertising format. That would be an eye-popping development, and I do like to have my eyes popped. But this is even nuttier."
Senior officials at Times-Shamrock, the media company that owns Metro Times, announced that the purchase will allow it to continue to serve a journalistically needy community under a bold plan to absorb Detroit News daily operations under the banner of a new publication, tentatively called The Detroit Daily. Questions over distribution, subscription rates, union contracts and display ad policies are to be hammered out by the new management in the coming weeks.
As to the new paper name, Metro Times Publisher Chris Sexson said that a number of other names were considered and rejected, and this one was chosen for being "subtly subversive."
One Detroit News employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said of the buy, "We've heard some pretty wild stories about that crew. We don't know what they'll be like to work for or with, but at least we'll be able to spell out 'fuck' in the newspaper."
It is expected that Metro Times will soon announce where the editorial staff of the new publication will make its new home. To save on costs, it is expected that Detroit News reporters such as Charlie LeDuff will have to temporarily share office space with Metro Times' news crew, headed by Curt Guyette. The publisher assured readers that they would still be able to read the columns of Jack Lessenberry and Larry Gabriel. No word yet on whether the new paper will retain the services of columnists Nolan Finley, Thomas Bray and Daniel Howes. However, given their politics, one lefty quipped that the new uncertainty can only bolster their empathy for the plight of the unemployed.
There has been a trend among daily papers in recent years to either buy weeklies such as Metro Times, or to start their own faux alternatives in an attempt to capture younger readers and a bigger share of the lucrative masseuse and phone sex ads that are a mainstay of alternative weeklies. This is, however, believed to be the first time an alt-weekly has assumed ownership of a daily paper.
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